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Meharry-Vanderbilt Alliance lecture focuses on health disparities research

Jun. 4, 2015, 8:30 AM

Melody Goodman, Ph.D., M.S., discussed her health disparities research during a recent visit to the Meharry-Vanderbilt Alliance.

by Matt Schorr

Melody Goodman, Ph.D., M.S., assistant professor of Public Health Sciences in the Department of Surgery at Washington University School of Medicine, visited the Meharry-Vanderbilt Alliance recently to present a lecture titled “Increasing Community Capacity to Partner in Health Disparities Research.”

Goodman’s research focuses on the St. Louis area, and she highlighted the racial divide there with respect to geography. White residents, she said, tend to live in the southern and western portions of St. Louis and the surrounding county, while African-Americans tend to reside in the northeast. That physical divide, coupled with systemic factors from area businesses and government, places African-Americans at a significant disadvantage, she said.

“We know that disparities are systemic and plausibly avoidable,” Goodman said. “They’re influenced by policies, and they put socially disadvantaged groups at a further disadvantage with respect to their health.”

The problem, she said, needs a new approach.

“We really need to rethink the types of questions that we’re asking. We need to move from defining problems to developing solutions. While we’ve been studying health disparities for so long, we still lack an evidence-based approach to disparities reduction,” Goodman said.

She stressed the importance of community and academic partnerships. When they work well together, she said, they can produce something far more beneficial than either entity could on its own.

Much of Goodman’s presentation focused on the Community Research Fellows Training program, which she developed to increase research literacy among non-researchers and to enable community members to engage in research. This approach, she said, is critical to developing successful interventions to eliminate health disparities.

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